Manchester derby talking points

Pellegrini's adios bears unjustified calm

"Even if you lose this, there are more games to qualify for the Champions League. It is important to try to be as close to the top of the table as you can." So said Manuel Pellegrini before losing his final derby as Manchester City manager.

Yet, after this reverse - his second defeat in six against United - there is a real possibility Pep Guardiola may not have Champions League football when he takes over next season. City remain fourth but are now only a point ahead of West Ham and Man United.

Van Gaal says farewell to Manchester derby?

This was the sweetest of victories for a manager many United supporters want sacked. Four times the usually seated Van Gaal was on his feet to show how much a win meant to him. If this is the Dutchman's last taste of the fixture, his record closes as P4 W2 D1 L1.

Rashford shows he has a bright future

An eighth consecutive start for the 18-year-old Marcus Rashford came as a surprise given van Gaal's tendency to tinker and the fact Rashford had not scored since registering twice in his second match for the first team.

Yet, only 15 minutes were required for the striker to suggest he may be a regular presence in the big time by leaving Martin Demichelis in a different postcode as he skipped in on Joe Hart before banging home a memorable winner. Rashford should also have had a penalty as the interval neared, when the Argentinian took him down. Each time the ball arrived he was a menace with his cocktail of pace and willingness to drive forward.

Demichelis-Mangala axis should be finished

The last time Pellegrini paired the 35-year-old Argentinian and the 25-year-old Frenchman was on Nov 21 against Liverpool. By the close City had been humiliated 4-1, with a Mangala own goal contributing to the rout.

When Rashford skated beyond Demichelis to score the 17 years between them became glaringly obvious, as did the fact that the old man of City's defence should be nowhere near this fixture. To compound City's defensive woes, it was Demichelis' back-pass that led to Hart being carried off on a stretcher. After 52 minutes the centre-back was substituted too. He and Mangala should not be selected together again.

Lingard is a No. 10 worth persevering with

Van Gaal's big experiment at the start of the season was to field Memphis Depay as United's playmaker. Now the manager is ending the campaign testing another option: Jesse Lingard.

Just as Depay does not have the football brain of the trequartista, Lingard - a wide-man by trade - appears a counter intuitive choice.

A common denominator between the two is pace: an asset van Gaal dearly wants in his side. It was the thinking in playing Depay at No. 10 and it may explain the placing of Lingard there.

This was a far more convincing audition from the English boy as his quick movement and interchanging of positions helped run City ragged.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2016, with the headline 'Manchester derby talking points'. Print Edition | Subscribe